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August 9, 2012

My Quantified Self

"If you can not measure it, you can not improve it." --Lord Kelvin 

I live by this quote. Measuring aspects of myself actually has a name, a following and a site for collaboration; it's called Quantified Self (#quantifiedself).

What I measure and what I learn
1. Heart rate via simple chest strap monitor
  • Weather variations. This hot Summer shows that it's pretty darn easy to get a high heart rate during a brisk walk as opposed to a cold walk in the winter. Winter treks take a lot to get your heart pumping. 
  • Working on the fourth floor is a great way to get to 85%+ of max HR just by zipping down and up the stairs to the bathroom during the day for some high intensity interval cardio.
  • My HR spikes at the beginning of a presentation due to the anxiety rush that attends the beginning of a talk.  It quickly subsides as the presentation continues (fortunately, or giving a talk would be dangerous).
  • HR logging throughout the day would be useful, but the technology is expensive or buggy.
2. Pedometer
Measuring your steps in a day using any variety of devices is fun.  While the accuracy of the steps is questionable with any device - sensitivities are inconsistent from device to device, however they are a good gauge of relative activity in one's day.  Parking far away from the supermarket, taking stairs, etc. parley during the day for a big big changes daily activity.  While the information gleaned from a daily step count is useful, the long term wearing of a pedometer is becomes limited.

I did wear a fitbit(.com) for a year.  Fitbit gives more stats on the intensity of walking and claims to have a good algorithm for calorie burn, but I'm a little skeptical,* their testing is good; the values I recorded seemed  high.

3. Blood glucose
I'm not diabetic, but have become interested in an anecdotal set of measurements of blood glucose on myself.  Reading about glycemic indexes of different starches, high carb, low carb, satiety, appetite is overwhelming and subject to so many variables, I thought I'd try a n of 1, myself and try to answer some simple questions:
  • What's my blood sugar when I'm about to throw a rock at the vending maching for a 1.5 oz bag of Cheez Its?
  • What's my fasted/fed blood sugar?
  • What's my blood sugar when I eat whole grains vs. a piece of cotton candy?
Simple glucose meters are free but the strips are pricey.  More importantly, the sampling problem is the snag for this measurement - when to sample?  The best method to get these questions answered would be to use continuous glucose monitoring (CGM),  but the equipment is pricey.  For now, I'll  try spot checking and see if I gain confidence in measurment over time.

With this post as a background, I'll intermittently share some results and let you know if it adds to my attempt to live and eat healthy.

*The overwhelming optimism of the fitbit's calorie count seems like it has company, the Nike FuelBand

Interesting related resources:
Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab (@bjfogg)

1 comment:

Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) said...

Interesting. I don't care enough to monitor myself often but I've borrowed my diabetic sister's glucose monitor on occasion to spot check my sugar. The low blood sugar feeling must be complicated by something other than glucose level because sometimes I've felt raging low and my blood sugar level measured normal. Continuous would be very enlightening.